Q&A: Will England’s National Food Strategy help tackle climate change?

Recently, part two of Englands National Food Strategy (NFS) was released, offering a broad overview of the state of the “food system”– a comprehensive term that covers the production, processing, transportation and usage of food– in England..

The first part of the method, released in July 2020, provided recommendations for the government to resolve food insecurity and appetite in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic. The freshly published second part has actually the specified goal of offering a “comprehensive plan for changing the food system”..

The NFS is the conclusion of more than 2 years worth of conferences and dialogues with industry leaders, academics, policymakers and the public.

The federal government has dedicated to producing a white paper and proposals for future laws in action within the next six months, although the early response from UK prime minister Boris Johnson has actually been “noncommittal” to a number of the NFS propositions, according to the Guardian.

In this Q&A, Carbon Brief analyzes the report and describes how its suggestions align– or do not line up– with the UKs environment targets and decarbonisation goals.

The report, which is more than 150 pages long, sets out 14 recommendations for the UK government to think about, including monetary incentives, reporting and trade standards and targets for long-term modification in the food system..

What is the National Food Strategy?

The report itself calls the food system “both a catastrophe and a wonder”. While the existing food system is capable of feeding the “biggest global population in human history”, it says, this comes at a high environmental expense. The report notes:.

Some have criticised the suggestion to tax wholesale sugar and salt as unreasonable or as disproportionately impacting lower-income households. Others say that the procedures set out in the report do not go far enough towards making the food system more sustainable.

Davey includes that, in his view, “every country worldwide would take advantage of doing something of this kind”.

” The global food system is the single greatest factor to biodiversity loss, logging, drought, freshwater contamination and the collapse of aquatic wildlife. It is the second-biggest factor to environment modification, after the energy market.”.

The NFS has actually definitely brought these problems to the forefront, Edward Davey, the worldwide engagement director of the Food and Land Use Coalition, tells Carbon Brief.

The scope of the report covers England alone, it keeps in mind that the house countries “food systems are so firmly linked as to be in places inextricable”. It continues that it hopes the devolved federal governments “might in turn discover some helpful ideas” in the method.

The NFS was commissioned by the UK government in 2019 as the first independent review of the federal governments food policy in nearly three-quarters of a century.

This report by @food_strategy has some interesting and far reaching ideas that would imply a huge modification for the much better in our food system and make us all healthier. I hope that these plans will be taken up by this government. https://t.co/gl5rZJCrhO— Mick Jagger (@MickJagger) July 15, 2021.

The response to recentlys release saw members of parliament, celeb chefs and even rockstars weighing in on its significance.

Its goal was to supply a roadmap for changing the food system from its present state to one that is healthier for the population and the planet..

Why is the food strategy crucial for tackling climate change?

Research suggests that the food system is accountable for about one-third of global greenhouse gas emissions. And the numbers have to do with the very same for the UK, Dr Marco Springmann, a population health researcher at the Oxford Martin Programme on the Future of Food, informs Carbon Brief. (The NFS report puts that figure at 19%, but various research studies draw different borders around what counts as the food sector.).

Under its commitments to the Paris Agreement, the UK has promised to minimize emissions from 1990 levels by 68% by 2030. The federal government has also set a lawfully binding target to accomplish net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Springmann states:.

The food system has actually seen substantially smaller decreases in sector-wide emissions given that 2008 as compared to the economy as a whole: economy-wide greenhouse gas emissions have actually decreased by almost one-third because 2008, however food-related emissions have reduced by only 13% over the same time..

Attempting to create a much healthier population while farming in a less harmful way requires partnership across disciplines, Davey tells Carbon Brief. He says:.

In addition, virtually all of the gains made in the food sector have actually been because of cleaner energy and increased efficiency in the energy sector. Changes due to farming have been minimal– as seen by the large green bar in the chart below.

Other significant factors to the emissions include food, transport and fertiliser production and product packaging..

” Without addressing the emissions of the food system, it will not be possible to fulfill those climate change commitments [laid out by law] and to contribute to mitigating climate change.”.

Nearly half of all food-related emissions are because of agriculture, consisting of rearing animals. The methane produced by cows and other ruminants is “approximated to have triggered a 3rd of overall worldwide warming given that the commercial transformation”, the report notes.

” Theres quite a lot of siloed thinking about the food system. So, from the viewpoint of integrated nationwide policymaking that provides, its great.”.

Greenhouse gas emissions from the food sector as a percentage of the 2008 emissions in that sector. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

What parts of the food strategy could make the greatest influence on environment change?

The proposed structure uses the “3 compartment design”, which makes every effort for a balance in between semi-natural land, low-yield farmland and high-yield farmland to satisfy the targets of both sustainability and food production.Investing ₤ 1bn in UK Research and Innovation and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), as well as smaller sized centres to spur innovation to “create a better food system”. Presenting compulsory reporting on a variety of metrics for food business utilizing more than 250 individuals. These metrics would include the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a national food system data programme, which would permit companies and the government to assess their progress on the objectives laid out in the report.

Davey calls the recommendations a “good starting point”. Nevertheless, he adds:.

” The concern is how rapidly will those reforms really deal with the environment challenge … I think the jurys out. Is it not as ambitious as it should be, from the point of view of what the land sector needs to do to accomplish the UK national targets?

A lot of the recommendations made in the report relate in some way to environment change or environmental sustainability. These suggestions consist of:.

What are the limitations of the food technique in resolving climate modification?

” There are already a lot of meat substitutes on the market and much more so when you think about natural meat replaces like more beans, lentils and those examples … Explaining more clearly that sustainable and healthy diet doesnt necessarily require to include processed meat alternatives would have been necessary, but that was missed there and rather this sort of pro-business angle was taken.”.

Limousin beef cattle in a barn feeding on hay, Selside UK. Credit: John Bentley/ Alamy Stock Photo.

” Another thing that appears to be missing out on is that foresighting, wheres the world going to from other sectors … Theres going to be a transformation in farming … And its going to take years [for the recommendations in the report] to come to fruition by which time the world may have altered.”.

For instance, the recommendation towards purchasing development lists alternative proteins as an essential location in requirement of research financing. Springmann says, the alternative-protein industry is already extremely well-developed. He informs Carbon Brief:.

” If you take the food system as a holistic thing, then you really require to address all type of issues. And if you wish to attend to effectively the environmental concerns, plus the health issues, you actually need to attend to the overconsumption of animal-sourced foods in our diet plans.”.

The recommendations “appear to be practically sort of looking in reverse rather than looking forward”, Prof Maggie Gill of the University of Aberdeen, informs Carbon Brief. She adds:.

The commissioning of the report– it was led by business person and restaurateur Henry Dimbleby– means the report itself “reveals a little bit of a manipulated focus” towards business-focused solutions, Springmann says.

Gill likewise notes that the report, while comprehensive, does not fully think about the unintended repercussions of its suggestions. A much higher percentage of fresh fruits and vegetables is squandered than meat. So the suggestions to eat less meat may increase the amount of food waste.

The report also “really shied” far from taking a strong position on minimizing meat consumption, Springmann says, with impacts on both the environment and public health. He says:.

The food system “is very complicated”, Gill states, “however I dont think thats any excuse for not in fact highlighting some of those issues right at the start”.

How does the food method address the contending interests of farming land usage and land usage for carbon sequestration?

The chart listed below programs that when the carbon sequestration “chance expense” (yellow bars) is contributed to the emissions of numerous food groups (teal bars), the carbon expense of lamb and goat meat really exceeds that of beef, due to the large quantities of land needed to graze those animals and their appetite for tree saplings.

The UKs Climate Change Committee (CCC) has actually estimated that just over 20% of agricultural land must be rewilded or converted to bioenergy or other, non-agricultural crops in order to attain net-zero by 2050. The NFS report states:.

However, UK prime minister Boris Johnson has actually currently suggested his hesitancy to support a few of the policy recommendations set out in the report. This does not bode well for the reports adoption, warns Springmann:.

In order to address these competing interests, the report requires a national land-use technique to finest designate land to nature, carbon sequestration and farming.

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” The kind of land that could provide the greatest environmental benefits is typically not very agriculturally efficient. The most efficient 33% of English land produces around 60% of the overall output of the land, while the bottom 33% just produces 15%.”.

Overall carbon expenses (kgCO2e) per kg of different food items. The teal bars show the direct emissions connected with the supply chain of each product, while the yellow bars show the carbon “opportunity cost”, suggesting the quantity of CO2 that might be sequestered in the land utilized to produce that food. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

Minimizing meat consumption would likewise help relieve the pressure on land resources, the report discovers. About 70% of the landmass of the UK is devoted to farming, with feed and pastures for beef and lamb taking up the large majority of that land.

The report keeps in mind that with the ideal incentives for farmers to repurpose their land, the technique could be equally advantageous towards farmers and the environment. It mentions:.

The report itself calls the food system “both a catastrophe and a miracle”. The proposed structure utilizes the “three compartment design”, which aims for a balance in between semi-natural land, low-yield farmland and high-yield farmland to meet the targets of both sustainability and food production.Investing ₤ 1bn in UK Research and Innovation and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), as well as smaller sized centres to spur innovation to “produce a much better food system”. These metrics would consist of the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a national food system data program, which would allow businesses and the federal government to examine their progress on the objectives laid out in the report. The right-hand side of the chart, using the exact same scale, reveals how much land is utilized overseas to produce food for the UK. The teal bars indicate the direct emissions associated with the supply chain of each product, while the yellow bars show the carbon “opportunity cost”, suggesting the quantity of CO2 that might be sequestered in the land utilized to produce that food.

” Globally, the most significant possible carbon benefit of consuming less meat would not really be the reduction in emissions, but the opportunity to repurpose land so that it sequesters carbon.”.

Establishing the technique will involve collecting data on agricultural performance, priority nature locations for conservation (such as existing peatlands) and highly contaminated areas. It will also build on work such as Englands trees and peat action plans– launched earlier this year– in order to identify the land finest fit for nature repair..

Sharelines from this story.

Nature-based options, such as peatland repair and afforestation, are expected to play a significant function in lots of countries and business net-zero targets, but a number of these require the repurposing of agricultural land.

The government has actually dedicated to producing a reaction to the strategy, consisting of proposals for new legislation, within the next 6 months..

As an outcome, the report states, the food system is being “asked to perform an accomplishment of acrobatics” in supplying sufficient land to produce the essential food, but likewise to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

UK acreage divided up by purpose. About 70% is dedicated to agriculture, generally animals and animals feed and pasture. The right-hand side of the chart, utilizing the very same scale, shows how much land is used abroad to produce food for the UK. About half of the overall land usage happens overseas. The combined acreage for raising beef and lamb for UK consumption is bigger than the UK itself. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

” Implementation of any of those suggestions actually needs political will … The recommendations themselves might have been more progressive, but even the ones that are there dont appear to resonate extremely much with policymakers that are in power at the moment.”.

The chart below demonstrate how all land in the UK is designated (left) and how much abroad land is used to produce food for the UK (best).

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